Vialogues

Vialogues is an interesting Web 2.0 tool created at Teachers College. Basically, you watch a video and enter comments as you watch. Your comments and those of other watchers show up on the right side of the screen, time-stamped according to the point in the video when the comment was posted. The comments stream is a bit like a backchannel except comments can be added at any time, not just in real time. Whenever a person enters a comment, even days apart, the comment is placed in the stream according to its time in the video, not it’s actual posting time.Diagram of Vialogues

You don’t need any special skills to get started with Vialogues because you can simply use a video from YouTube or Vimeo as the basis for inviting comments. As for resources, obviously you need a computer with audio and video in order to interact (no app for this yet!) if you want to restrict who gets to participate, you have to enter email addresses of the people you want to invite.

The unique advantage of this tool is time-stamping comments, so it’s going to be useful in teaching or training when that’s helpful. In a film-making class, you might have students comment on each other’s projects. A coach might use film of a game and have players watch and comment on what’s happening. In a political science class, students might watch a politician’s speech and comment with questions, observations, identify rhetorical devices, etc.

There are some drawbacks, however. The most serious is that as far as I could tell, the time-stamping feature is not intuitive, at least not to me. My “test” Vialogue was “What really makes you happy?” I noticed that all but the last couple comments were stamped 00:00. I started to watch the video and tried entering my own comments. Even though I did not comment until a minute or so into the movie, my comment got time stamped 00:00. It took quite a bit of trial and error before I figured out how I could make sure my comment was time-stamped accurately, and if I wanted to pause the video while I composed my comment, I had to start the comment, then press pause. I made a short video to show you what I mean.

The other major drawback is that you can only use YouTube or Vimeo videos unless you upload your own. For example, I wanted to use a Ted Talk and have students in my class try out Vialogues, but no can do. So if you want to go beyond YouTube and Vimeo you need to either create your own video or download the video you want from somewhere else and then upload it to Vialogues—and before you do that make sure you have the legal right to do so! Also, it will be difficult to use this in a learning management system, so if you plan to “grade” the comments or even keep track of who commented and who did not, that’s going to require extra work on the instructor’s part.

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